February 26, 2021 Read 5 Min

To Build for iOS or Android First? 4 Key Differences to Consider

Starting off on the right platform is the first step to ensuring your app flourishes the way it should. Here are 4 differences to keep an eye on.

Male hand holding Apple iPhone 12 Pro and Android Samsung Galaxy S10 side by side

Is iOS or Android a better place to start when it comes to launching new mobile apps? Let’s explore.

Mobile apps are becoming an increasingly lucrative venture, and a quick look at the numbers can tell us why. Recent research shows that mobile users spend 90% of their screen time on apps, and only 10% on browsers. Apps also push more people down the purchase funnel. With 3x higher conversion rates compared to mobile sites and even 1.5x more conversions per session than via desktop.

It’s no surprise that businesses from verticals left and right are catching on on the value of both iOS and Android development, but unless they have a surplus of time and resources at hand, when it comes to an initial launch, a choice must be made between the two platforms.

But why exactly? Short answer: It’s extremely risky. 

Launching on both iOS and Android platforms simultaneously may be the dream for apps just starting out. But most experts in the industry would strongly advise against it. To put it simply, shooting for both hoops at the same time will incur high development and marketing costs. It will also take longer periods to launch due to high volumes of complex work. 

On a positive note, focusing on one platform first allows you to refine your core app experience for a more targeted audience. In fact, this is how many great apps started out — Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram, etc.

When it comes to deciding on a platform, it is necessary to understand the benefits you will reap from each. To help clear the fog between iOS or Android for your first launch, here are 4 things to consider.

1. Audience

Android users are more saturated in developing countries, while iOS users are generally more affluent and saturated in developed countries. That said, it’s safe to say that launching on iOS first will (if executed well) give you a slight advantage. You could have access to more individuals with higher influence and purchasing power, as well as the press. 

On the other hand, Android gives you the advantage of a larger user base and broader reach. If you’re looking to emphasize push notifications, especially, you might see better results with Android users. According to a study by Accengage, Android showed both higher notification opt-in rates and stronger click-through rates, compared to iOS. Many believe it has to do with the way Android has more prominent and sticky notifications. While iOS hides notifications in the notification center after they’re seen.

Apart from the potential for reach and engagement, there are many other ways to compare these two user groups. Take a look at some of their social, economic, and political differences here on an infographic made by Hunch. You can find user data that helps you decide where you can form a stronger audience depending on your target. 

All in all, take some time to study your market. If you already have an audience, what platform does the bulk use or prefer? If you don’t, is the majority in your demographic more likely to own an iOS or Android device?

2. Time

Many sources state that Android development takes a longer time because it involves about 40% more code than iOS development; but many also argue that this isn’t necessarily true. Development periods for either platform would heavily depend on a team’s proficiency in whatever language they are using, be it Java, Kotlin, Objective-C or Swift.

However, people believe that Android development is slower due to the need to test on a larger number of devices, resulting in a higher volume of bug fixes and maintenance. Development must consider a much larger variety of screen dimensions, processors, and operating system (OS) versions due to the tens of thousands of different devices available.

On the other hand, people believe that developing iOS is a simpler task for a couple of reasons. (1) It involves fewer devices, and (2) most iOS users keep their operating systems up to date. Why the latter matters is that, based on the worldwide iOS version share on Statista, targeting the latest few operating systems would exclude less than 10% of the user base. In contrast, the Android operating system share is much more varied and evenly distributed, making it costly to focus on only the newer versions and exclude older versions. 

Despite the many positives for iOS, Apple is known to have a longer review process and stricter guidelines when it comes to getting new apps on the shelf in the App Store. In some cases, predefined rules may result in the complete rejection of apps due to inconsistency.

So what’s the verdict? Both platforms take time but on different portions of the delivery process — Android may take up more time in development and maintenance, while iOS may take up more time in operations.

3. Budget 

Generally, iOS apps cost more to develop, and the reasons have to do with a few things — the devices they’re built on, publishing fees, and resourceability.

Developing for iOS requires a Mac to meet the standard Integrated Development Environment (IDE), maintain consistency across devices, and avoid issues with unsupported configurations. In contrast, Android development can be performed on most platforms.

Why does this cost more? It’s pretty obvious. Macs and Macbooks are relatively more expensive than other devices from manufacturers like HP, Dell and Lenovo. Agencies will need to provide their developers Apple machines in order to carry out iOS development.

Which brings us to resourcing. Due to the requirement of a Mac or Macbook for iOS development, it is more accessible and thus more likely to have a larger number of Android developers than iOS developers. Especially in regions with fewer Apple consumers like SouthEast Asia, it may be difficult to source and costly to hire iOS engineers. However, hiring remote workers is an alternative commonly considered to overcome these problems in talent availability and cost.

When it comes to fees, Android Play Store has the much smaller bill with a one-time fee of USD$25 to start publishing apps to the store, while Apple’s App Store charges an annual fee of USD$99. 

Though these reasons may point you towards Android as the evidently more affordable option, keep in mind that they may or may not affect how app development agencies adjust their prices. Some may take the aforementioned factors into consideration with their quotations, while others may not. If you’re opting for a development agency, it’s still best to compare their prices upfront.

4. Monetization

According to app revenue data from Business of Apps, Android, despite leading in total users, has been consistently outperformed in revenue generation by Apple’s App Store over the years. Despite having less than 15 percent of worldwide market share, iOS users have shown higher willingness to spend on apps and in-app purchases. 

What this means is that you’re more likely to profit from iOS users if your app is a paid app, but less likely to earn ad revenue from them (because they’re more likely to pay to get rid of ads). So if you’re making a free app and focusing on ads, go Android. If you’re making a paid app with in-app purchases, go iOS. 

After all, if you can get your product to market and build a funnel from acquisition to revenue on iOS, you can be confident that your business model ‘works’ and will probably work on Android, though you should expect lower ASP and conversion.

The Summary

To wrap it all up, launching on iOS first could give you better chances of top-level exposure and revenue growth from paid app and in-app purchasing features, but these may come with the price of higher development costs, more stringent updates and longer review processes. 

On the other hand, if you plan to launch a free app and explore up-and-coming markets such as SouthEast Asia, India, and Latin America, and earn mainly through ad revenue or push notification marketing, launching on Android first may be the safer option.

Need Help?

Snappymob is an expert web and app development agency that is experienced in kick-starting all-new mobile app strategies. 

Take a look at our work or drop us a message on your upcoming project!

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